Why I Write The Quiet Voice: Thomas’s Twentieth Birthday Edition

I turn twenty in an hour and a half, and the English major within me wants to explain why I write this blog. In addition to my thoughts on society, books, and pop, this site has always served as a space for me to reflect on my personal life, as you can see from how the traumatic events of this past semester show themselves within my recent writing. Though this thesis might change, I will make it clear, as of today: I write this blog so that it can serve as a place of compassion, for myself and for others. A quick definition of “self-compassion,” provided by professor and researcher Kristin Neff:

As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate. – Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.

Two themes run throughout my life: the depth of my emotions and the struggles I have encountered. I experienced horrible abuse as a child and I also developed an eating disorder in early adolescence. Because of my identity as an Asian-American, my maleness, my natural tendency to put others before myself, and a variety of other factors, I often faced a lot of stigma when trying to reach out and would thus repress my feelings and my troubles. This blog serves as a testament to my hardship, and it proves that the obstacles I have faced do not define me – because I have reached out for help and have worked on improving my health, I maintain a consistent spot on Dean’s List, multiple extra-curricular activities centered on mental health, two jobs, and more. I recognize that many people have suffered worse than me and that many others have achieved more than me, however, I hope that the journey I document here shows others that the pain they experience – the pain that you experience – is real. It is real, and it does not define you.

I have also learned that pain acts as a feeling, and you cannot control your feelings, no matter how irrational they may seem or how hard you try. Several years ago I felt a constant need for thinness, even when I could see each of my ribs without sucking in my stomach, even when the scale spat out a number that made clear that I was underweight. Within this past year, I have felt a pervasive isolation from others, in part because of the abuse and neglect I dealt with as a child: even with close friends and family by my side, even with all of the wonderful support I receive on this blog, even with my solid college community, I have felt separated, alone. But this blog proves that those feelings will pass, because so many of my old posts reek of hurt, of perfectionism, of a loss of control – and after accepting the validity of those emotions, they have passed. With time the loneliness that struck me so often this past semester will stop hurting me so much, and I know now that I can experience the deep depths of my emotions and use them to my advantage without letting them consume me. My point: the pain you feel will pass, too. Trust me. It stems from the human condition, from something we all share, as simplistic and cliche as that sounds.

Honoring your pain – or any emotion you experience – and finding feasible coping mechanisms requires so much strength, and I hope my writing can help you find your own strength. I hope my words can inspire you to think and to share your own journey if you want, either through a comment, on your own blog, or in a journal. I hope my story can motivate you to ease your own suffering, through calling a hotline, seeking a therapist, reaching out to those closest to you, practicing mindfulness, and more. I hope my transparency tells you not to give up, even when friends fail you, even when you fail yourself, because there will always, always be someone, or something, to help you. I hope my writing proves that you are not alone. I hope my writing gives you hope.

Ending this post with a selfie because some things never change. Left: me holding a disc containing more than ten versions of

Ending this post with a selfie combo because some things never change. Left: me holding a disc containing more than ten versions of “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Right: me with my new spirit pet named “Compassion” (you can call them “Pash”).

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sit on the soft cover of the bed in my hotel room, and I think about how meaningful it feels to have finished two years of college – to have gotten that much closer to becoming a psychologist, a career in which I can spend every day of my life understanding others through research and through practice. Thank you to those who have supported me along this journey; I appreciate your words so, so much. Just as a reminder, you can also get updates from me on Goodreads and Twitter (and Facebook, if you send me a direct message). I hope to hear from you soon.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Why I Write The Quiet Voice: Thomas’s Twentieth Birthday Edition

  1. Happy (almost) Birthday Thomas! You know, I don’t remember exactly when we became friends on Goodreads/our Blogs, but I am pretty sure it was you that contacted me first. Throughout the years, you have never failed to leave the most thoughtful, most kind, most genuine comments on my blog posts and book reviews, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

    I feel like I’ve already said multiple times things I want to say to you again. So I will just say this: You are a truly great person Thomas, and a really great friend. (Oh and an amazing writer… but I’ve definitely said that before haha). So I hope you enjoy your birthday to the absolute fullest; I’m send you a virtual cake (topped with love and happiness- oh I know, that’s super cheesy).

    -Grace 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Grace! I think our blogging friendship exemplifies how it is the quality, not the quantity, that counts. Even though we have both had busy times as of late, we still make the effort to occasionally comment on each others’ blogs and to show our support. You have been a consistent source of young wisdom for me, and I appreciate you a lot. Here is to many more years of writing!

  2. Ah, the big two-oh! I definitely want to check out the book on self-compassion. There are new battles to face in your 20’s and beyond, but be assured that there is meaning in the struggle. I am right there with you on the journey of self-love. Thanks for constantly inspiring me with your words and through the way you live your life.

    • Thank you, Elayna! So excited for the 20s, and I appreciate how you have checked in on me and commented on my writings. You inspire me as well, and I am glad that we are around each others’ age groups so that we can commiserate about college, FFX, and more.

  3. As a reader of your blog and someone from the baby boomer generation I also find your blog helpful and as someone with mental health issues myself, (anxiety/panic attack disorder, claustrophobia amd agoraphobia), who graduated with a degree in Behavioral Science, I see a bit of myself in you. I am a firm believer in cross generational conversations and learning from each other. Your generation helped my uncover my non-binary gender identity and my interactions on tumblr, and with younger writers on WordPress, have been very enlightening.You also inspired me to turn back to books for escape, learning and relaxation. So thank you for all you do, I’m proof you can teach an old dog (or fairy bear) new tricks. 😃

    • Oh, and have a very happy birthday!

      • Thank you for sticking with my blog and showing your optimism! You have overcome so much adversity in life and your wisdom has enlightened me many times when I have read your comments; you also exemplify the idea that learning is life-long, which I appreciate so much. Hope we can continue to stay in touch and thrive.

        • Thanks! I really believe you should always be open to new ideas and continue learning in pursuit of things you care about. I, in turn, also owe much to your generation and your blog is an example of the kind of thoughtful insight I really appreciate.

  4. Peter

    Happy Birthday Thomas!

  5. Happy happy birthday! 😀 I love the fact that you’re not afraid to talk about more personal things on your blog. I hope you have an amazing birthday with many more to come!

    • Thank you, Holly, for validating my sharing and for taking the time to comment! Hope you are doing well and finding joy amidst life’s smaller pleasures.

  6. Happy Birthday Thomas. Some day I suspect you’ll also be able to look back on what you’ve written and remember this time with a different perspective. And see how it was part of the path. This time was one, if not many, of the stepping stones, that led you to exactly where you are supposed to be.

    Happiest of birthdays this year! Until next year! Then I hope for that one to be even happier. 🙂 And so on….. 🙂

    • Thank you for your insight as always, Colleen, as well as for taking the time to read and comment. I agree that with time and distance I will be able to examine these events with more maturity and depth, and I cannot wait to see what 30-year-old Thomas (oh, wow, that will be crazy) has to say about all of this. (:

      • 🙂 30 year old Thomas. What a wonderful ‘thing’ to think of. I am pretty sure he’ll look back at 15/20/24/28 year old Thomas and say ‘well done chap, well done’. (If he was in an old British movie version of himself.) 😉

  7. I wished you already, but Happy Birthday again Thomas! I hope the coming year brings you nothing but the very best! I think this is one of my favourite posts by you and I’ve always appreciated your honesty-especially towards your emotions. I feel like as a culture we’re often doing the opposite of recognizing our emotions and being kind towards ourselves. I think sometimes it’s easier said than done, but we’re all a work in progress. Thank you for touching our lives with your amazing blog posts! Hope you’re having a great day!

    • Thank you for your consistent support and for taking the time to read and comment on this post, Savindi. I admire and appreciate how you have opened up to me as well, and you do a great job of writing about many different things on your blog while maintaining a positive and growth-focused mindset. Glad that we can maintain our blogging friendship throughout the years. 🙂

  8. Kev

    Happy Birthday Thomas. I totally get why you write your blog and what you get from it. It’s a double bonus as it no doubt helps so many others too, which I know is do important to you. I already follow you on Twitter and Goodreads, but would love to be your Facebook friend too. I have sent you a private message already about something else, so you have my email address.

    • Thank you so much Kevin, I really appreciate that we can follow and support each other in many ways and through many mediums. I will try to respond to your message as soon as possible and I hope you are doing well!

  9. I already wished this on other platforms, but I had to do it one more time on WordPress. Happy 20th birthday, Thomas! I really loved this post; the hopeful and honest vibes really show through. And I couldn’t help but notice the “thomas writes about what he has experienced and hopes it helps at least one person” tag. You’re a brilliant blogger that always tries to reach out to inspire and cheer others. For that reason and the fact that you’ve overcome obstacles of your own, you’re going to make an amazing psychologist someday! I hope your day has been going well, and make sure to eat some fattening cake (or anything sweet)! 🙂 (And your new friend, Pash, is a cutie.)

  10. Happy Birthday! I love your blog and your honesty, and I’m glad you’ve learned earlier than I did that talking about things and being open helps you and helps others. Wishing you many more years of your compassionate life and I know what an amazing help you are going to be to others through your life and career.

  11. Happy Birthday Thomas! I hope you continue to post on here, no matter how crazy real life gets (and it can get insanely so in college, esp doing as much as you are). I believe you will make an excellent psychologist because of your past experiences and your ability to grow because of them, plus you are super compassionate and I think you’d be a good listener as well.

  12. Great post, Thomas, very inspiring, and Happy Birthday!

    I think it’s so brave that you’re honest about big chunks of your life on your blog, and you’re right we can’t change our emotions no matter how random they are so we should embrace them and combat them. Good advice there. 🙂

    • Thank you for checking in and for leaving a comment, Becky! Emotional awareness and acceptance is a huge deal and I am so glad that you think the same as a fellow Psychology major. Hope you are well, as always. (:

  13. Wow, I remember you being in high school and now here you are fresh out of your teens. Your blog voice has always been so much more mature though! Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Thomas!

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